Saturday, November 15, 2014

Notes from Session #3 (Saturday) At Trailhead Church Fall 2014 Women's Retreat: Be Thou My Vision

Notes from the last session of our Trailhead Church Fall 2014 Women's Retreat. (For Session #1 - click here.)

Be Thou My Vision - Filling Our Vision With Jesus As We Love Each Other Well

[Before I type out the content of my notes, I want to let you know that our team of women's ministry leaders spent much time in prayer over the subjects we would be speaking on.  This session was particularly difficult to narrow down.  There are so many different directions a message on loving each other well can go.  I know that this is the direction that God wanted us to go.  It is not meant to condemn or discourage - but to point us to Jesus who loves us well!!  Remember, condemnation says you are not good enough, not ever.  Conviction is when the Holy Spirit puts pressure on one specific point that he wants you to address.  Don't be condemned!  Look to Jesus!  He does not condemn.]

I am so grateful and excited that this section follows our Friday night and Saturday morning sessions.
 Loving each other well begins by being in the Word and being in prayer.  We cannot discuss what God has for us in community without looking at Jesus.  How did He love those around him?  How does that inform how we are to love those around us?

Think about your closes relationships.  Give me some words to describe those relationships.  "Encouraging.  Fun.  Faithful.  Life-giving."
No one said what could also be the truth:  "Shallow.  Condemning.  Hard."

Before we look closely at how we interact, let's look at Jesus.  Read Philippians 2:1-8.
So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus is living out perfect community here.  Self-sacrificing.  Humility.  No rivalry.  No conceit.  Sacrificed to the point of death.  FOR US.

Now turn to John 13:4-17.  We see Jesus' self-sacrificing played out on a very personal level.
Jesus... rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?"  Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand."

Steve [lead Pastor] spent two weeks talking about our foot washing God.  You can listen to those messages here.  Jesus humbly served in a beautiful precursor to His ultimate sacrifice which was on the cross.

Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 13.  I know!  We all panic - the marriage passage!  But it is NOT the marriage chapter.  This is the CHURCH chapter.  Paul is telling believers how to behave in the church.  In community.  In relationship.  Let's read it:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Did you see Christ in verses 1-3?  We see Christ in verses 4-7.  Let's specifically see him in light of the story of washing the disciple's feet.  We are going to compile John 13 and 1 Corinthians 13.  What would Jesus have said to those men as he served them?  What would he have thought?  Let's look at what Jesus did NOT say as he washed the feet of the men he had spent three years serving, loving and teaching.  (And since we are a room full of women, we are going to use "she" instead of "he".)

"Love is patient and kind."  > Jesus did NOT say:  "Boy, I am so tired of washing her feet!"
"Love does not envy or boast."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "I wish I had her sandles so my feet wouldn't be so dirty."  Or, "Good thing she has me to wash her feet!"
"It is not arrogant or rude."  > Jesus did NOT say:  "Wow!  Thank goodness I don't have her life!  She has the most disgusting feet!"
"It does not insist on its own way."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "I sure wish she would walk the way I tell her so that her feet wouldn't get so dirty."
"It does not rejoice at wrong doing."  >  Jesus did NOT say:  "She is SO muddy.  Now everyone will see!"

But you know what?  Jesus didn't care about the disciples outward appearance.  He didn't care about how clean their feet were.  He cared about their hearts!  What does he NOT say about our hearts?

"Love is patient and kind."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "I am so tired of forgiving this woman!  She's a mess!"
"Love does not envy or boast."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "She would really be so much better off if she would let me clean her heart."
"It is not arrogant or rude."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "She is the worst!  She has the worst heart I have ever seen.  How ugly."
"It does not insist on its own way."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "Stop.  Sinning.  Now."
"It is not irritable or resentful."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "Sinful, sinful, sinful.  I am so tired of your wicked heart."
"It does not rejoice at wrongdoing."  >  Jesus does NOT say:  "I knew it!  I knew your heart would mess up like that!  I told you so!"

Now let's look at how we respond to each other through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13.  But we cannot skip over verses 1-3.  Without love we are defeating our goals of true community.  If we serve and teach and help but show no love, we are offensive!  Destructive!  Dangerous!  Things are going to get pointed now...

Love is patient.  >  This is the hardest one!  We must learn to wait - not have our own time frame for our friends.  You may want a friend to change or grow.  But only the Spirit prompts change!  Can you patiently, lovingly wait and serve as your friend stumbles and struggles with sin.  Jesus is patiently, kindly waiting.  We must be slow to speak, even in those time.  Is the Spirit prompting me to speak?  Or is the Spirit working and asking you to be patiently silent?  Do not assume that it is your right or responsibility to point out a friend's sin.  Wait patiently.  Pray and wait patiently some more.  If the Spirit prompts, speak.  If the Spirit doesn't, be quiet.  Love is patient.

Love is kind.  >  Can you give a kind word when you feel mistreated?  You will be mistreated by a friend.  It is part of life.  Can we be kind even in this?  Not in our own strength.  And not without love.  And most definitely, not without prayer for yourself and your friend!

Here I want to take a second and talk about two things.  Often before we are kind to someone we make them earn our approval or our kindness.  This is the opposite of how Jesus loves us.  We are given love and acceptance freely.  We need to learn to give kindness freely - even to the one who hasn't earned it.  Kindness is a gift we give, not a payment for good behavior toward us.  And dignity!!  A friend posted a quote from a Huffington Post article:  "Jesus' love, even if it came with hard words, somehow always seemed and felt like love.  People were seen.  They were heard.  They were touched.  They were left with more dignity than when they started."  Ladies!  That article was written by someone who isn't even a Christ follower!  Do we reflect this Christ-like quality?  Do we offer dignity along with kindness?

Love does not envy or boast.  >  Oh ladies!  We DO envy and we do boast.  Some of us envy that we can't afford to eat all organic.  Some of us boast that we are married.  Some of us envy those who have children.  Some of us envy those who don't have children!  The list goes on and on.  All we can boast about is Christ.  And envy is so, so destructive.  When we do this, we mentally or even physically divide ourselves into groups.  Those who have and those who don't have.  Those who do and those who don't do any number of things.  We as women have divided ourselves into many splinter groups - married, unmarried, have kids, don't homeschool, eat healthy, love Twinkies.  Once we envy and boast we divide.  Once we divide we are unable to love and serve the body of Christ well.  I was us to glory in our differences.  Serve each other well.  Care for that person who has nothing in common with you.  Heaven will not have divisions.  Why do we have them now?  Spend time with people who are different from you.  Move outside of your comfort friends and get to know that person who has different circumstances but the same Savior as you.

Love is not arrogant or rude.  >  The definition of arrogant is "having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities.  Friends, some of us need to practice the 5 question rule!  You cannot say anything at all about yourself until you have asked 5 questions about the person you are speaking to.  We find it too easy to talk about ourselves, our abilities and importance.  The definition of rude is "offensively impolite, ill mannered."  I think that speaks for itself!  Jesus was never ill mannered.  Was his message offensive?  Yes!  The Gospel, the Truth, is offensive to some.  But Jesus has called us to be lacking in rudeness.  Think you might be rude?  Ask your friends.  They'll tell you if you ask in humility.

Love does not insist on its own way.  >  Are we building kingdoms of people we have recruited to our ways?  Or are we seeking to point others to Jesus only?  Never say:  Be like me!  I don't care how healthy or organized or educated you are!  We are redeemed not to achieve earthly perfection, but for the glory of God!
[For your benefit here - I had to confess that just one paragraph up I had asked people to follow a rule I had.  The 5 question rule.  We laughed that I was saying don't ask people to be like me but was also telling people to do something I have done.  My apologies.]

Love is not irritable or resentful.   >  Have you ever had someone resent you?  Or show you how irritated they are with you?  How painful!  Jesus calls us to lay aside that frustration and speak words of lovingkindness.  We should not give ourselves the freedom to be short, or even sarcastic!  Be careful with your sarcasm.  Sarcasm is defined as "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt."  Yuck!  When Steve and I first got married we fell into the habit of shooting sarcastic barbs at one another.  All in good fun, right?  But soon my mom had to point out that we were continually cutting each other down in the name of humor.  And we weren't very pleasant to be around, much less seen as two people who actually cared for one another in a loving and kind way.  Ouch!  But it was so true.  Be careful how you use your sarcasm and just where you point that mockery and contempt.

Love does not rejoice in wrong doing.  >  Oooh!  We do not often see someone who rejoices when a woman sins.  That isn't our typical issue.  What do we do?  We pull out the sledgehammer of truth!  Ladies, let me caution you.  If you see someone in sin - unless the Spirit has given you the right to speak, unless the Spirit is calling you to speak, you better keep your mouth closed!  And if you cannot speak that truth without speaking softly, gently, in love, then you have to right to speak at all.  Keep quiet.  If you cannot speak without getting angry, keep quiet.  Notice, it says but "rejoices in the truth"!  Joy.  Truth spoken with love, in gentleness, brings rejoicing.  Do your words bring rejoicing?

And finally - LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS.  LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS.  LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS.  Our hope is in Jesus, not our own words or actions or deeds.  Love does endure all things - by keeping our eyes on Jesus!

I want to close with a few verses out of a book my mom gave me when I got married.  So long ago!  It is from IF, by Amy Carmichael [another blog about that book here].  The verses are poetry.  She uses the phrase "then I know nothing of Calvary love" which is used as a contrast for our actions.  Obviously we do know about Calvary love and we are recipients of that grace.  So just listen,  keeping our eyes on Jesus for his grace and mercy and continued growth.

Love is patient:
"If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
Love is kind:
"If I have not compassion on my fellow-servant even s my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love does not rejoice at wrong doing:
"If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any:  if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love does not insist on its own way:
"If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Love is not arrogant:
"If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Let's refocus.  I am not speaking condemnation.  In Christ Jesus we are not condemned.  But we are called to fight the good fight - to struggle together.  We want to be those strong pillars from Psalm 144.  We are called to be women of the Word, to be women of prayer and to be women who love well.
Psalm 144:12  "May our daughters by like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace."

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